Mentor Name:
Amy Lenz

Mentor Position:
Research Instructor, OUR Certified Mentor




Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2021 begins on May 26 and ends on August 5. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2021 application.**

Clinical evaluation of end-stage ankle osteoarthritis (OA) is primarily derived from 2D conventional x-rays. To improve on current medical imaging and interpretation new emerging weightbearing CT technology, a computational study is proposed to characterize ankle joint complex disease by quantifying 3D anatomical variation through statistical shape modeling of patients with ankle OA. The proposed research is relevant to public health because patients with end-stage ankle osteoarthritis are in general 10 to 15 years younger than patients suffering of knee or hip OA, making the likelihood of patients outliving current surgical treatment options a challenging clinical problem. Our lab’s contribution here is expected to be a 3D computational study to characterize ankle joint complex osteoarthritis by quantifying anatomical shape variation through Statistical Shape Modeling of the tibiotalar and subtalar joints. This new and substantially different approach to computationally evaluate ankle morphometrics is expected to allow us to overcome the current limitations of clinical radiographic evaluation of ankle joint complex osteoarthritis, thereby opening new horizons for more quantifiable methods to aid in treatment planning for patients with end-stage ankle OA.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

Dr. Lenz is a Research Instructor in the Department of Orthopaedics. She is an expert in foot and ankle medical imaging and computational modeling. The undergraduate student on this project will be mentored directly by Dr. Lenz and work closely with the members of the Orthopaedic Research Laboratory Lenz Research Group. The undergraduate will be part of each portion of this study, from collection of weightbearing CTs with patients in our University Orthopaedic Center, to learning methods in image processing, to working with Dr. Lenz's graduate student to develop and interpret statistical shape models of the arthritic ankle joint. The student will be responsible for segmenting all weight-bearing CT images to create 3D reconstructions for input to statistical shape modeling. The student will be encouraged to perform a literature review at the beginning of the summer to understand the scope, relevance and clinical motivation for the research to be completed. In Dr. Lenz's lab, undergraduate students have an excellent history of earning co-authorship on published manuscripts. Therefore, discussions and expectations for consideration as a co-author will be clearly outlined at the beginning of the summer semester. COVID permitting, students in Dr. Lenz's lab are also typically given the opportunity to shadow surgeons in the OR, clinic and participate in research meetings with the foot and ankle surgeon collaborators. Overall, it is Dr. Lenz's goal to provide a comprehensive research experience by providing many learning opportunities while setting tangible goals to complete the proposed research. Remote Contingency Plan: I am currently well set up to continue with the proposed research, regardless of whether students are allowed to travel to campus to conduct research. All students in my lab are currently working remotely and have been since March 2020. To enable the success and productivity of all of my students, I provide a lab desktop computer with all the needed software programs and computing power to conduct meaningful research remotely. For example, this past May a student from outside of the University of Utah system started working with me remotely. I shipped a desktop and monitor to her in order to ensure she was well set up to conduct the outlined research we discussed. She has been incredibly productive and we just submitted a manuscript this month on her research started in May. While her research internship was initially intended to end at the completion of summer semester, she has chosen to continue working with me because of her excitement for the research and successful experience with working remotely. The only exception of the complete research experience was that I personally conducted the medical imaging at the university and then sent the de-identified files to her to complete all the next steps in the research project. All of my students meet with me regularly over Zoom and additionally meet with my surgeon collaborators to continue with ongoing research in a meaningful manner. We aim to remain productive and connected despite the challenging times and unprecedented work environment.

Student Benefits:

At the completion of the SPUR program, the student will have a comprehensive experience of conducting foot and ankle orthopaedic biomechanics research with a focus on morphology of patients with ankle OA. Students seeking a future career as an engineering graduate student (biomedical or mechanical) or professional clinical degree (MD, DO, PA, or PT) will gain valuable experiences to prepare them for the next step in their professional and academic careers. As previously mentioned, co-authorship on the project will be considered and clear expectations will be outlined. Furthermore, students wishing to pursue any of the above mentioned post-undergraduate career options will have resources and colleagues in the department to discuss options and seek additional mentorship from outside of the immediate Lenz Research Group.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 26, 2021, and ends August 5, 2021

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2021 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2021 and not graduating before December 2021; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but might not be able to be compensated. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at an American institution of higher education and verify with your institution’s international center that your visa allows you to participate in this program, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 26-August 5, 2021). 4) at least 18 years old by May 24, 2021 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing). Please note that no previous college coursework or previous research experience is required.